Directed by: Drew Barrymore
Premise: A young woman (Ellen Page) joins a women’s roller derby team. In order to take part she must lie about her age and deceive her conservative parents.
What Works: Whip It is a lot of fun and a very well made picture. It’s hip, fast paced, and slightly irreverent while also putting enough focus on character and theme to deliver a story that is more than just a retread of the sports genre. Actress Ellen Page plays a teen whose life is lived for her mother, who sees her daughter’s future in beauty pageants, and Page is very well cast in the role. She is able to covey a subtle sense of love and respect for her mother, rather than cliché teenage angst and disdain, while underneath is a restless, independent streak that translates into her later role on the derby team. The relationship between Page’s character and her parents pays off by mounting the tension between the life she wants and the life she has and in the film’s confrontation of traditional female gender roles with more contemporary feminist ideals. Whip It also shows a great deal of skill in its filmmaking. The scenes of roller derby are well choreographed and edited and the film smartly explains the game for the uninitiated without bogging down in exposition. The teammates have a sense of unity and group dynamics that comes across as authentic and there is enough character work so that they are all distinct individuals.
What Doesn’t: There is a lot in Whip It that is familiar from other sports movies going back at least as far as the original Bad News Bears and so the overall plot of the film is pretty predictable. When the main character’s deceit is exposed, the consequences for her aren’t very steep and the story squirms its way out of any difficult narrative obstacles by just going around them, which is a cheat, but Whip It is so fast paced and so much fun that it’s easy to forgive this lapse in the storytelling.
DVD extras: Trailer and deleted scenes.
Bottom Line: Whip It is a very fun movie to watch. It’s by no means groundbreaking but it is very well done. The film also offers a chance for a wider audience to learn about roller derby and it will be a fun film for mothers and daughters to watch together, although male audiences will likely enjoy it as well.
Episode: #285 (April 25, 2010)